'He denied everything... No one stood up for me'

Posed photo to illustrate sexual harrassment in the workplace.
Posed photo to illustrate sexual harrassment in the workplace. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

She was glad to have landed a job right out of university three years ago but it soon turned into a nightmare.

"I was looking forward to my first day at work," said the 26-year-old marketing executive who wanted to be known only as Ms Ng.

All went well for a week as she settled into work. Then a colleague started "behaving strangely".

"He would stand really close behind me when I was at the photocopier," she said. "When I bent over to take my printouts, my back would inevitably bump into him."

The male colleague would then walk away abruptly afterwards, she added. "I didn't know how to respond to him. I felt really uncomfortable."

TOXIC WORK ENVIRONMENT

We were short-handed, so everyone was really upset with me when the guy got suspended... I didn't want to work in a culture that was so toxic.

MS NG, who quit her job because of the lack of support from her colleagues after she was harassed by a male co-worker

Things worsened when she asked her colleagues for help on how to deal with the man, who was in his late 40s.

She said: "They told me to just ignore it and it would stop after a while. They said that's just the way he is."

Another colleague told her that she was "imagining things" and "not to flatter herself". So she kept quiet but things did not get better.

He began to breathe loudly and close to her neck when he stood behind her. "It was getting creepy," she said.

"I had enough but I didn't know who to turn to," said Ms Ng. Finally, she told her boss, who confronted the man.

"He denied everything though everyone saw what he did to me. No one stood up for me."

Her colleagues began to avoid her as well. Ms Ng was labelled a troublemaker "who didn't know how to keep her mouth shut".

"We were short-handed, so everyone was really upset with me when the guy got suspended," she said. "There were not enough people to do the work."

She quit in frustration. "I didn't want to work in a culture that was so toxic," she said.

And what became of the man? "He continues to work there," she said.

While she wonders about the effectiveness of the new guidelines released yesterday, she did welcome them.

She added: "I was most disappointed by the lack of support that my colleagues showed. I don't think I have ever felt so lonely and scared before. I hope the guidelines will also address the 'blaming-the-victim' culture."

Aw Cheng Wei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2015, with the headline ''He denied everything... No one stood up for me''. Print Edition | Subscribe